Tanzania ponders mobile portability plans

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania–The Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has said it is optimistic with implementation plans to introduce the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) service in the country.

The affirmation was raised last week by the TCRA Director General, Prof. John Nkoma at the launch of the two say symposium to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Authority.

Prof. Nkoma said the authority was fully supporting the introduction of Mobile Number Portability (MNP) in the country, which paves the way for customers to freely choose the service operator for their telecom services without changing their mobile number.

“The service is highly anticipated as it will allow the consumer to keep their mobile number across any service providers, even if they do not operate in the consumer’s telecom circle,” he noted. 

The director General said once the service start operating, customers will no longer be held hostage as they can change service providers as they wish depending on the quality and the cost. 

He said the new system would allow customers to port their numbers from one network to another by using the same SIM card with their contacts intact. 

Currently, switching from one network to another requires purchasing a new SIM card with a different number and sometimes a secondary headset. 

In June last year, Prof. Nkoma was quoted saying the that the government had approved regulations to allow mobile number portability (MNP) in the country and that already the authority had put in place the necessary regulations to implement MNP .

Expectations were that the services start being provided this year (2013), a move which seems to fail since the project hasn’t started.

“We announced the tender for an institution which is competent enough to successfully implement the project, we have good promising responses and we’re sure of getting a suitable engineer soon,” said Prof. Nkoma shortly after launching of the symposium.

He ruled out customers fear that the service will not affect value added services as they shift to their providers. 

Previously experts have raised concern that MNP services will affect value added services to their clients.

In November last year, Minister for Communications, Science and Technology Prof. Makame Mbarawa  was quoted saying the government had decided to introduce the service to create competitiveness among mobile phone companies and that people will be free to shift depending on the quality of services of the companies.

According to the minister, regulations were ready formulated and that the system was to start last year, 2012, but it has not been materialized yet.

He advised the authority to raise awareness to the public to reduce challenges ahead that majority of Tanzanians were not aware of the service, and if not well informed they will not be able to use it effectively.